Welcome to The Hotel Zoomifornia

clown motel signStory by Jared Reynolds

This past summer I taught a summer course, which, as you know are pretty short. It is really important to meet every class since the normal 16 week course is condensed to 8. So everything was going fine with the class and then, just like an unexpected car slamming into another, it happened: vacation plans. Turns out that one of my course meetings would fall victim to some vicious summer fun. What would I do? The class material was already condensed enough. How would I cover all of the material and administer all of the assessments? All of a sudden, it came to me, just like angels singing… Zoom. “I can Zoom!” I thought to myself. I quickly (and as nonchalantly as possible) asked my wife what our plans were for the day in question.

Turns out, we didn’t have anything going on in the morning, “Perfect!” I thought to myself, “I can do class in the morning from the hotel room.” This was still going to be a long shot, though. I have four kids and a wife, all of whom would be in the hotel room with me. Hmmm, kids that act like they are in a circus, in a hotel room with a wife that wants vacation and not for her hubby to be working. “I can do it.” I said to myself, as if I were a mad scientist tapping his fingertips together. Fortunately, I explain my situation to my wife and she buys it. I notify the students of the situation and that we were going to meet on Thursday online. They too bought the idea and really, why not? Class from home? Nice! Before we knew it, we were off to vacation-land. I have to admit, I wondered if having class, given these horrible circumstances, would work.

Well, the day came. My lesson was ready and Zoom was open on my computer. I quickly acquired a join link for the meeting and post the link in the announcements for the class. Shortly after, as sure and the sun was shining, one, two, three… until: ten, ten students in the online class with me running the show. They all joined, participated, and the class went on with me able to see their happy faces just as I did in the classroom. I taught as normal (switching between presentation and activities), asked questions as normal, and it all happened online! After the class was over I asked the students if they liked having class from home and they, unanimously, said yes.

Ever since that day I have wanted to teach a WebLive class. The WebLive (what we are proposing to call this modality) model using Zoom has a lot going for it. Teachers and students are afforded the ability to participate live in an online class from the convenience of home while sacrificing little. Everyone can see each other, teachers can share their presentations from their screen instead of a projector, with no driving, no putting on shoes, no sitting next to that other person that may make you a little uncomfortable – none of that! So ,off I go into the wild blue frontier of WebLive teaching. Wish me luck!

Zoom HigherEd Case Studies


Do Teaching Videos Work?

I was lucky to see a fantastic talk about learning at Instructure Con 2015 by Derek Mueller, host of Veritasium, a popular YouTube Channel about science. It’s popular because it’s fun, interesting, and well-made – and he is great on-camera talent – but part of its success is also due to science applied to video-making.

Derek has a PhD in Philosophy, and his thesis paper is titled “Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education”.

His paper, and his keynote, was about how people learn, and how revealing and acknowledging misconceptions is a way to open minds to learning. Simply lecturing about a subject, he says, is fairly ineffective, but by creating confusion in the learner, and showing them other people going through their own learning process, is effective in helping people to grasp concepts more deeply. It’s another example of how our ideas of how learning happens don’t always jibe with reality.



Better Online Teaching Through Online Learning

nullThere are many strategies to improving your online teaching, but have you considered taking an online course yourself? If you teach online, being an online student is a powerful way to see what really goes on from that side of the fence. Now it’s easier than ever to be an online student at NO COST and NO OBLIGATION: the advent of MOOCs. “Massive Open Online Courses” raged on to the edu scene a few years ago, and they are still expanding, with thousands of courses by top colleges and universities offering them through a few providers, like EdX, Coursera, and others. You can participate as little or as much as you want, but if it’s a subject of interest – and you’ll find one – you might get into it and even learn something. I guarantee you learn something about online learning, no matter what the subject. Here’s a course about online teaching from a college in Austrailia.

SumSumSummer Institute Institute

Summer Institute number 12 is Tuesday, May 9th & Wednesday, May 10th.  With fantastic home-grown general sessions and over 25 day and evening workshops, it’s going to be another great time to learn and socialize. The Final Faculty Standing competition is a chance to win an iPad Air 2! You can peruse the entire amazing schedule right now: http://tinyurl.com/lcu3jwa

Then use the YC training site to register: https://training.yc.edu

Get a bittersweet taste of what’s to come in this TRAILER to Tuesday’s, general session: The Teaching Zone: True Confessions from the Trenches of Teaching. What’s your teaching secret?

The March is On

The 4th Annual March for Best Practices is a chance for Faculty to share 1-2 best practices in their teaching. One best practice we like to honor is: sharing! which is what this professional development opportunity is all about. Find out how you can join in the march like your colleague below.

Online Course

By Megan Davis, YC Student

The learning outcomes of a class should be meet, whether it’s hybrid, online, or in-person. I’ve just finished another online class. Last semester I took a class with a similar subject matter, and, unfortunately for me, I did not learn anything new from this class. I used my book from last semester and was still able to make an “A”. Mostly discussions covering what we felt about certain situations. Perhaps I was just anticipating knowledge that was skimmed through in my previous class.

I think the class took an elementary approach to teaching. Maybe because it was an online class, maybe because it was a short-term class, or maybe this class was not the teacher’s first pick. Despite feeling that I was unable to learn anything, the class was fun and full of writing, which is something I love to do.

There are some good things and bad things about a class like this. One of the bad things is the lack of foundation-building for the next class. And, of course, the good part is getting a good grade would be a improve the transcript.

I would categorize this class to be a “GPA booster”, meaning: a class you are just refreshing on or a class that you take nothing new from. These classes are perfect for a college student to get “satisfactory” on our transcripts. The thing about this type of class is that someone completely new to the subject will gain no foundation for the next class. I felt like the material brought to the tests had nothing to do with the lessons or discussions being taught. What was on the tests I only knew from earlier classes on similar topics.

Weeding out these classes however will not be easy. Students will continue to take them simply because….well, there simple. Dropping GPA’s are no fun. When you get to enjoy a stress-free semester while bringing your GPA back up, then life goes on with ease.

I have only taken online courses this semester, and my second class starts on the twelfth of this month, I hope this next class is just as easy. I’m not only trying to raise my GPA but also trying to take it easy until the second half classes and life’s stresses ramp up again. I knew when I signed up for classes that I would be struggling to meet every deadline.

I have a student loan that is deferred until I am no longer taking classes, so, this being said, I am in it for the long run! Graduation is only a couple years away!

Film Projects, Part 1

by Jeff Wood

The big challenge in assigning a video in place of a paper is to make sure students get the same skills out of the film as the paper.

When enthusiasm is high for a project–or when students are enthusiastic about a project because it seems fun and easy–it is important in my experience to be sure that the project is well-planned in order to get the most out of it.

Many students want to jump straight to the video production to create the project, but I feel that they get the most out of such projects with a deliberate start.

To begin each project, I have students summarize their projects in one sentence.

I call this a “pitch.” In the feature film world, this would be called a “logline.”

The goals of the in-class pitch are: Be specific. Have a sense of story. Allow the audience to “see” the project.

Most students have difficulty with this phase of the project.

It always reminds me of the quote, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

If we are doing this in class, creating a pitch, even in groups, can easily last 30-60 minutes.

In addition to developing skills in summarization, writing pitches can demonstrate the power of revision. The pitch can be written and re-written several times during a single class meeting, and students can see progress in their re-writes immediately.

Writing pitches can develop brainstorming skills and lead to a discussion of how to overcome writer’s block if students feel that they don’t know what to write.

When students break down at the starting gate, I like to use free writing to get them going.

One idea that works well for this assignment during a lack of creative ideas is to have students freewrite 200+ words for an idea, then cut the description down to 100 words, then 50, then 25. Most students have some subject they would like to pursue. The free write helps students get the idea out and on paper before committing to one sentence to sum it up.

This is just one technique. I’m sure there are many others.

The more I teach this skill, the deeper it gets for me.

When the hard work of the pitch is done, students share them with the rest of the class and receive feedback on their ideas.

Sharing the pitches often creates enthusiasm that helps students to give each other additional creative ideas for their projects.

When we reach this step, we are back on track, feeling full of ideas and creative, and class becomes easy and fun again.